2021-12-18 - He Makes Me Dance

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Title: He Makes Me Dance

Mikoto struggles to understand her Lord Brother's machinations, while Nori and Yumi support her through her grief -- and consider the implications. Tama and Batiste offer their help, too.


Mikoto Minagi. Nori Ankou, Yumi Ohzora


Infinity Institute - Dormitories

OOC - IC Date:

2021-12-18 - 2015-12-24 (late at night)

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Icon For Hire - Only Be A Story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=533BF-jT0V8

> Something happened
> I gotta stau over work Yumi
> Ok???

Mikoto sent those text messages -- slightly waylaid by an autocorrect which couldn't quite keep up with her trembling fingers -- to Mai, when they returned to reality, and her phone deigned to work again. (Luckily, it was in an inside pocket, not in her overcoat.) With only brief detachments for her other friends -- and Nagisa, after that, soundly counts as a friend rather than an acquaintance in Mikoto's mind -- she's stuck by Yumi's side on the return, all the way to the dorm they decorated together.

She asked her to cover the mirrors, when they got in. She doesn't explain why, but perhaps that glinting gold in the shadows, memories of her own eyes, are explanation enough.

And that's how they end in the living room with the curtains drawn against the reflection of the windows, comforters all set out for an impromptu sleepover. (Miroku, in its case, leans against the wall.) It's a good place for Nori to find them, when she arrives; a lucky thing she does, too, because Mikoto herself is a terrible conversationalist, tonight. She sat with Yumi, she accepted what care was offered, and gave little comment.

Her comment to see what Nori has brought is light sparking in her eyes, a hesitant twitch inward of her fingers before she reaches out to bury them in black and white, circling the scarf broad around her. "... I like gifts like this better," she says, a little more life to her voice. "Thanks." And there's something in the brief pause, the distinction, which writes a sad story about some of the gifts Mikoto has been offered of late; but then, why else would the Sea have called her?

She buries into that scarf hencewith, which isn't terribly hard, because the pyjamas she's borrowed from Yumi are already exceedingly good at concealing her. It's not that they're that much broader than what she normally wears; it's just so much LONGER. Her hands have been consumed by her sleeves, and now her neck's all bundled up with long edges, too.

Now that portable hot-pot Nori brought bubbles with all the bounty of the sea, and Mikoto watched it until it boiled, with quiet expectation. Still quiet; it's not that she looks unhappy as much as she is pensive, preoccupied, gaze growing distant between any conversation which might be going on around her. She leans against Nori, a hand reaching out to grasp the trailing edge of Yumi's scarf, as if she could stay connected to her by the gifts she was given.

Her other hand lifts, slowly, to play a braid around it. "Merry Christmas..." Mikoto murmurs, twirling those sole long strands of hair around her finger.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Good! I'm glad," Nori answered Mikoto. "I hope it's comfortable for you."

Nori is in her same outfit as she was all along, and has, gently, been pleased by the sight of Mikoto in her too-large outfit. It's adorable, and she thinks, it is something she deserves - Mikoto deserves to be adorable, if she wills it, and not be...


Nori gives Mikoto a brief, squeezing side hug. "Would you care for a shrimp or perhaps a bit of scallop?" she asks her, holding a long spoon in her other hand. "I understand if you prefer not to rise..."

"I hope it won't seem too much like a lame gift to say, you're welcome to the pot, too, if you want it," Nori offers to Yumi. "I hope they allow them in the dorms." In general, one presumes, not like, right now, when models are in town.

Batiste has absented himself, probably to check his otter mail andor find the bathroom. He will return, in time.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Yumi loves the scarf! It is well-known that Yumi gets cold very easily. She also enjoys Mikoto's presence! The mirrors... she doesn't have to ask why, when Mikoto asks her to cover them, and frankly Yumi doesn't keep a lot of those out and uncovered in the first place. There are witchy reasons for this, but she's also kind of self-conscious about her appearance a lot of the time, so that's that.

"Yeah, they're great!" Yumi agrees about the scarves, happily twirling with hers for a moment.

She is less buried, because her pajamas are actually sized for her. And Mikoto is pensive, and distant, but...

Tama is definitely close by for the seafoot. Batiste may be after otter mail, but Tama looks up from Mikoto's very comfortable lap to say, "I will have scallop." She is an old lady cat but she knows what she likes.

"Oh, thank you!" Yumi answers. "Nah, it's not lame at all. And I... think they do?" she says. They let Yumi get away with a little extra regardless, for a few reasons.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Between two girls and a cat, Mikoto is quite comfortable. She's surrounded on all sides by people who care about her. It's something she needs, right now, even if it's not how she'd planned her night to go.

(She never did get to ask Mai if...)

"Yeah," Mikoto bobs her head, in a nod, looking up to Nori. (A touch sidelong, legs folded against her side as she is.) When she is given her bowl of snacks, she dutifully plucks out one of the plumpest, tastiest-looking scallops and waves it about a bit to cool it, before placing it upon her shin for Tama to devour. The fact that Tama has deigned to perch upon her is certainly something Mikoto has noticed; she's done her best to respect her dignity, which is to say she only scritches her ears occasionally.

She nibbles on a shrimp, herself, and tries to be present in the moment of good food. Mikoto likes Nori's seafood, and this is, of course, delicious. If she wasn't so troubled... but, she decides, after a moment too long, "... it's good."

Mikoto blinks, overlong, as her mind catches up to Nori's offer. "I have one," she says. "They don't mind." A pause, and she frowns, looking to the door. "But, it's Ohtori..." And in Ohtori, the amount you can get away with is directly proportional to the amount of Student Council members who like you.

She pops a few more bites into her mouth, and replenishes Tama's scallop stock, once she's munched through her morsel. Finally, looking down at the seafood, Mikoto musters: "... thanks. For being with me," she explains, in the next beat, a little shake of her head. "After my Lord Brother did all that... I'd be scared to be alone. He wouldn't like it..." She trails off, swallowing, as if a piece of shrimp got stuck in her throat. It didn't.

"... but, I wish you didn't see that." It's a quiet confession, face flushing with the shame of her friends seeing how he speaks to her, entirely outside the stories she's told. (So many of them are nicer than the truth.) She hasn't yet looked up from her bowl.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Tama places her order. Scallop. Mikoto deals with the logistics.

"Well, good! I would just wonder. I remember when I lived in the dorms at Ohtori," Nori says. "It was... peculiar. I was a little jealous of some of the other buildings, though I was hardly deprived... I like what I have now." Converted office space with a concrete floor and weird decor?


Nori reaches forwards now to fish out what had been the leg meat of king crab and is shortly going to be part of Nori. (The crab leg meat came from a bag, tragically... she is perhaps not that luxurious.)

"Mm," she says.

She considers the crab.

"See what?" Nori asks, glancing first up towards Yumi, then towards Mikoto. She does not move further, staying there, present, lean-againstable. She puts the bit of meat into her mouth, quietly chewing in thought.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Tama accepts Mikoto's offering, and accepts occasional ear-scritches. The scallop will soon disappear into the hunter's maw.

"It's really good!" she says, and then--hmmm. The dorms at Ohtori... "Ohtori's like that," Yumi says. "I guess it's possible they would mind hre in some of the dorms? But I've got my own little kitchen so I think it's fine." She smiles. "I think it's neat that you get to live there!"

Tama's tail curls lightly about Mikoto's arm, when she thanks them.

Yumi also considers crab. But after, she shares that look with Nori, and then looks to Mikoto. "I didn't see anything that made me think less of you," Yumi says simply. She doesn't apply it much to her own situation because--why would it be the same? But she does follow up, "Not a thing."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto is good at figuring out how to execute orders. Maybe don't think about that too hard.

"... I like being with Mai," is what she has to say about Ohtori's dorms. What the dorms are like may not factor into that value judgement very much.

Neither does she question the crab coming from a bag, perhaps for the same reason as stated above. Cooking on a budget means getting an awful lot of things from bags. They can still be very tasty!

But Nori asks, and Mikoto hums, unsettled, though her lips. "How... we talk to each other," she explains, reluctant. There's a tail around her arm, which helps. Yumi doesn't think less of her, and that helps, too.

It didn't look like much of a back-and-forth conversation, but Mikoto sounds like she believes it.

One hand lifts, fingers curling at the hollow of her neck; she still can't quite bring herself to look at either of them, with those too-bright eyes of hers. "I practised so hard, but when my Lord Brother was right there, I couldn't say anything..." She sounds so small, looks so small, seated there beside Nori. "I couldn't... challenge him. It was like it always was."

How many conversations, between them, have been so one-sided?

From how haunted her eyes are, this isn't the first time his kindness has come at the end of a cudgel.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Nori smiles at Yumi, for a moment. Her arm squeezes Mikoto, lightly, then, and she turns her attention towards her to listen. About Mai, of course; who she knows Mikoto loves.

And then about...

The other guy.

"You were surely taken by surprise, though," Nori murmurs. "I don't understand how any of that happened, myself. I suppose a miracle, in its way, and we were certainly lucky... or perhaps the real luck were those poor scientists."

"There is no shame in not having anything to say when you're caught flat footed like that," Nori continues. "... But, did you want to challenge him?"

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"Right," Yumi says, and smiles at Mikoto. Of course she likes being with Mai! That's--well that's kind of its own whole thing and Yumi isn't going to touch that much right now. Instead, she listens to Mikoto explain further, and so Yumi listens.

"Yeah," Yumi agrees first with Nori. "You were surprised--nobody's at their best taken out of nohere." The luck... the scientists. There's that. "You practiced, but it's like... how when you get a pop quiz you might forget what you studied, because you're surprised."

She pauses. "...I know what you mean, how he talks to you and all. How it... was."

"That's a good question though--did you want to? ...what did you want to say?"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto hums vague assent, when Nori says she was taken by surprise. There are plenty of people in Dark Fall she would suspect, targeting Sailor Moon's friends and vulnerabilities like that. But her Lord Brother..? Mikoto didn't expect to find him at the North Pole back then; neither did she expect to find him there today. It's an unsettling thought, mollified by that squeeze from Nori, and both of their reassurances.

Nori asks if she wanted to challenge him; Yumi asks what she wanted to say. To the first question, silently, she nods. To the other -- "That stuff I said... to the, memory..." Mikoto's voice hitches, skips a beat, as she tries to describe the dark presence they found in that spiralling abyss. "... it's the kinda stuff I've been practicing to say to my Lord Brother. I thought it'd help... since she was dark, too. I wanted to tell him, it wasn't fair, but we don't gotta be like this. It doesn't have to hurt," she says, for the second time tonight. "And, and... I don't want this," she adds, voice lowering to a nervous whisper, gaze darting aside. Yumi's there, so she's safe. She repeats, in variation, meeting her eyes for that shy moment: "Not like this." Certainly she wants her Lord Brother to think of her, to treat her kindly; but she knows his gifts are no kindness.

Mikoto eats another morsel of shrimp. This time she is able to smile, however faintly. It is good. She nods, once she's swallowed. (Once she's apportioned another snack to a cat.) "How my Lord Brother talks to me..." She echoes Yumi, scratching at Tama's head, briefly. It's different to how she said it. It sounds like more of a relief to say it this way. "... it feels bad for my friends to hear that," she settles on, after a careful moment.

She's speaking out of order. If anything, it's a reflection of how long it takes for her mind to process the words.

Out of order, she takes a breath, and taps the corner of her bowl, falling silent for a moment. "... I get it," she says, at length, because it's what has run through her mind this whole time. It took her this long, that prompt, to muster the strength to say it. "How it happened." Her tongue darts between her lips, to dampen them, to catch a shred of whiting which previously escaped her maw. It's a nervous reaction; it exposes nerves. "My Lord Brother... told the research ship where to go." It's a certain assumption about the pronouns that wizened man used, in that possessed ship. "He sees... he sees," she repeats, a little shiver up her spine, down her arms. "He, directs people... Nori heard how sweet he was." Mikoto heard sweetness in that smirking voice..?

Here she thinks of that fog, unsettled; but she can't quite settle on words to describe why, and leaves it aside.

"So, he told them what they needed to hear to come here," Mikoto draws what conclusions she can, with that sort of quiet acuity which belies her plain words. "And they took Mio's body out of the hole. That's why it was empty. That's why the memories came out. And she ordered them to do that... and everyone was so mad..." She looks aside, hand reaching over to grasp at Yumi's sleeve, for some vain support. What she saw, what she heard, on the day of Christmas Eve -- "They were going to fight. All the normal people. Everyone was scared, and, angry. The whole world. My Lord Brother made that happen. Used what was left. He..." She trails off, speaking on his resourcefulness, what he has grasped for himself now she is out of his grip.

What difference is there, between a prince who uses the remnants of his fellows with brutal precision, and a princess who scatters a corpse to the floor like so much garbage? This she wonders and does not say, either.

But they're thoughts which make Mikoto's eyes scrunch up, and her hand grasps in Yumi's pyjamas. "He makes me dance for him, and everyone's in danger! Why does my Lord Brother keep testing me?! He always wants to see what I can do! If I can..! And it's getting worse, too!" She couldn't love him alone; no wonder, then, that holding more and more people hostage stings suffering into her voice, high-strung.

It's not just stress, but guilt. Not only for what she sees as what she is putting everyone through... but for speaking so plainly of his plans in the first place. He'd gone so far as to name his little sister -chan, in front of a group, with careful consideration to public disclosure rather than their private truth; Mikoto, meanwhile, isn't respecting honne and tatemae at all. It's a subtle point of shame -- that he would be so considerate -- all while she disrespects their secret lives, again and again.

... but then, perhaps that contrast is why it's taking Mikoto so long to find her voice, tonight.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Nori reaches forwards to collect a scallop from the simmering hot pot. ("Do you think we should add a little chili oil?" she asks Yumi, but it is a gentle parenthetical; perhaps even a ploy, on some level, to make it all seem normal and relaxed. Nori Ankou has dealt with her share of sorrow, even if her techniques are often erratic.)

Then she is quiet, as Mikoto speaks. She dines upon her morsel as she listens.

The first part, the outline of what likely happened, seems plausible to Nori. "But how did they find their way to the Sea," she murmurs, leaning back a little bit. She provides another shrimp for Mikoto at the fiddling of the bowl. On sweetness she is silent.

The topic then leaves Dear Brother, and goes into Mikoto herself. And Nori reaches over to take Mikoto's hand, to squeeze it briefly, and to remain silent for a moment longer, eyes lowered, composing her thoughts.

"It is wrong of him," Nori says.

"Wrong of him to do this to anyone. Wrong of him to do it to Tokyo, to the world. Wrong of him to disturb my home. And most of all, wrong to do these things to you."

Her eyes lift upwards. "It is not your fault, Mikoto. I am sorry that it is - that it is like this..." She trails off, the enormity of this particular 'Christmas gift' defeating her for the moment. Instead she squeezes Mikoto's hand again.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Yumi didn't really expect it either. But the normalcy makes it easier to just kind of keep going with all of this; Yumi is good at these sort of subtle games, hether she thinks of herself as such or not. ("Hmmm. I think best not," she says, and doesn't make it about Mikoto, "I can only do so much spice at a time!" But it's definitely about Mikoto.)

Mikoto comes up with answers... and Yumi nods. "Yeah," she says. "I see." She smiles gently, when Mikoto glances aside--and Tama even tolerates head-scritches for the moment. She is concerned over Mikoto, not that she would say as much for the moment. Still.... 'Sweet'. How he directs people--what happened....

"Not sure," Yumi admits to how they did it. "He might've had a hand in that too... or maybe not." 'Sweet'. "Right. He sees things."

She's so stressed, and it makes Yumi angry. To think of ho her great Lord Brother treats her--

"...It's not fair to you," she says. "To you, I mean. Not just him. What he's doing.... he shouldn't be. This isn't a 'gift', and we'd have been with you anyway. It's..."

She frowns, and can't entirely keep it all in. She sighs.

"Sorry, Mikoto. But I don't like it."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

That Mikoto does not yelp at the possibility of chili is, perhaps, the most damning evidence of her present state of mind.

Her other hand is claimed by Nori, and the imperial hue of her fingers curl loosely, grasping the other girl's palm. She watches Nori without, mercifully, having to meet her eyes, as she speaks so plainly on his wrongdoing. Her brow creases, pained; there's a twitch of her fingers, grasping a little tighter.

It's the pain of alcohol swabs over a cut, really. To hear it spoken so plainly is Nori's own truth, unvarnished, another option. Mikoto doesn't like to think of what she might have done if she'd heard it with that choke-chain about her neck, but now it seems she's free to draw her own conclusions.

She's sad, meeting Nori's eyes, but she's sad because...

Yumi, too, and those unnaturally bright eyes turn to her, as she speaks on where the inequity lies. Just as Nori has modelled, her hand slips down Yumi's sleeve, to slip into her palm, with a light squeeze. Mikoto was holding someone else's hand, in the fortress; but here, she's holding theirs.

"... I know," she says, slowly, looking from Yumi to Nori. "It's... it's punishment. My Lord Brother just makes it sound like... it's good for me. ... it's always been that way," she admits, chin ducking down. She doesn't quite have the strength to speak on all his machinations a second time; she leaves it to implication, because her voice is tremulous enough, trying to honour their feelings when hers are so complex. "It's, okay for you to not agree. He's... he's Dark Fall. Like I was. We didn't learn nice things. Not liking it, it's normal. Okay?" The question is thin, and it wobbles at the knees. It's hard for her, even knowing that all she has said is the truth, and her friends are by and large charitable souls. If they don't like it, they've got a good reason. But...

No matter how much practice she gets with reassuring her friends their feelings are valid, she still feels like she's doing something wrong.

She swallows; she's quiet, for a moment. She looks down to a cat, rather than at either girl. That's safer.

Finally: "... I don't think they found the Sea," Mikoto says, quietly. "They got cobwebs... they'd been travelling a long time. The long way, I think. I think the Sea... got us there quicker, 'cause if we hadn't, everyone... my Lord Brother said we barely made it," she shivers, beside Nori, and perhaps she's regretting her hesitation, there by the yawning abyss. She shakes her head, and asks, instead: "Was it looking out for us..?"

She pauses, for a moment, lips pressing thin together. "But, I don't know how they met us in the Sea," she says. "... Queen Beryl was really, really, really powerful. Even the memories are. Maybe she was so angry... the people she was using found us in another world." Mikoto shakes her head, with a little noise of frustration. "I don't know. Maybe, my Lord Brother did it," she inclines her head, to Yumi, and her own suspicions. "But... I don't know how." This, she offers to Nori, apologetically. She feels bad the Sea was breached like this. If she could explain it, she would.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"You are not a small child," Nori answers Mikoto, on the topic of punishment. "Even with beasts and birds, you know it yourself: you get more with sweetness and savory than with bitter and sour. If he sought to dissuade you from some great danger, I would still hate him, but perhaps I could understand."

She sips from her bottle of juice, leaving the other part unstated: 'he ain't, so I don't.'

"... That's true," Nori continues. "The smell... well, Yumi, I hope you will forgive me for being, er, indelicate about it, but... things had been dead there for quite some time, if not quite so long as to have rotted away entirely... I suppose some of it might have been other things brought on."

"It's funny," Nori says. "The magic that was within them, waiting... it may have preserved them as well. I suppose, anyway. The ship itself was under a wicked enchantment, so perhaps they were only there for a short while..."

"Perhaps the Mother of Sorrows was helping us..."

The idea makes Batiste, who is returning from the little otters room, pause in a gesture of something resembling prayer. He does not seem to have anything much to add, and perhaps reading the room, circles round to chill with Mikoto and provide another source of soft, soft fur.

"If she was that powerful... then her memories and her sorrows would share in those powers. I have known ghosts, but usually they are not able to - to do very much," Nori says. "A slammed door. A shut way. There was a Siren of long ago who appeared once, at a museum, strong enough to see... but it has been a while since Queen Beryl lived, isn't it?"

"I don't know very much about her," Nori concludes.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

It's okay. Yumi is looking out for Mikoto's spice tolerance.

Yumi squeezes Mikoto's hand, too. She is upset, but...not at Mikoto. "Yes," Yumi agrees with Nori. "However he makes it sound... it's not OK that he does that. You don't need to be 'corrected', or punished." She pauses. "...Yeah. They think differently in Dark Fall. Maybe he just doesn't know how to do nice things." Yumi doubts it, but she is willing to let Mikoto hang onto hope, because... is she going to quash hope? "It's OK."

She can't argue with Nori. She nods along, and then--well. The smell... "I don't mind," Yumi says of Nori being indelicate. "Hmm... I couldn't say," she admits.

"I think the Sea helped us too. And Queen Beryl..." Yumi nods. "Yeah. I heard about her. I heard the stories about what she was able to do.. how she drove everybody away."

Magical girls, that is.

"...Ghosts vary," Yumi admits. "But I don't think that was a ghost, exactly. It didn't have the... will. Just the memory."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto hums acknowledgement when Nori and Yumi speak on punishments, a little shamefaced. Correction... he would think she needs correcting, wouldn't he? "... he is sweet," she looks to Nori, after a moment, perhaps confirming just how much of her perspective was in that prior statement. "That's why it's hard, for me. Even when it hurt, when he looked at me like I was the only one who mattered in the whole world... I was happy." And perhaps the dynamic informs the way he spoke to them -- rather, spoke to HER -- as if a world at war were only a passing curiosity, a trifle to test her against. As if all their trials were only a mechanism to bring her together with her allies, company on a special day.

They all saw the way Mikoto weighed people who mattered versus people who didn't, in the world which was -- the way she was willing to let countless people die, so Eri Shimanouchi would live. She had to have learned that logic from somewhere, growing right down to the roots of the family tree.

... at least, that's a nice way to look at it, isn't it? Mikoto is quite skilled in finding the best possible light. It's kind of Yumi not to crush that hope, though Mikoto doesn't quite see enough to be grateful for that specific kindness.

So much was dead; she glances to Yumi, as if in light surprise that Nori has to excuse the facts of the smell. "Could be magic," she agrees, thoughtfully. Magic is a terribly powerful thing, after all. Mikoto looks down as Batiste circles around her, with a wan smile, and a welcoming noise in the back of her throat. In the back of her mind, she wonders whether the two of them will have enough territory between her to be comfortable. The fact that Tama is a magical cat and Batiste is only metaphorically a cat (of the sea, naturally) does not intrude on this concern in the slightest.

She tilts her head, with a thoughtful grunt, at Nori's mention of doors; there's something about it which strikes her as fitting, but it's one of those feelings she can't quite put to words, again. "Don't know much about ghosts," Mikoto says, apologetically. "It's scary... how someone might come back after they're defeated." Her lips scrunch, and her fingers twitch, in each palm. "Rather they just be stories."

Mikoto was perfectly content thinking ghosts weren't real. She exists in the world of the living.

"Don't know much about Queen Beryl, neither," she adds, with a shrug. "Sailor Moon would know... but last time I saw her, I, um... I think I tried to kill her," Mikoto says, awkwardly, looking up at the ceiling. "So it's kinda awkward... can someone else ask?"

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Mm," Nori says. "Maybe there are multiple ghosts. The tears of Queen Beryl, wicked as she is, would find their way there as readily as anyone else's. I would not empathize with her... but it must have been frustrating, in its way, as well."

Nori feels weird to empathize with someone who like, wanted to kill everybody, even if she was really pulling off a purple dress that's still fashionable 20 years later. She sips her juice. Looking back towards Mikoto now.

"I would be glad to ask her if you are not comfortable doing so. Do you want to come along?" Nori looks up to Yumi then. "Did you invite her? I know she has - well; there are people she has to go visit. I know all of us, we tend to be a little solitary, don't we?"

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"...Yeah," Yumi says. "It's pretty special to feel like you're the only one who matters, right?" she says, and she can see kind of what Mikoto means there. That dynamic--and how he spoke--make a lot of sense to her.

A lot of things could be magic. Tama does not move as Batiste comes around, though she peers at him briefly, in acknoledgement. That is about it. They do not for the moment seem to have problems with them.

"...Yeah," Yumi says. "it must've been frustrating. Nobody likes to lose." She won't say too much about ghosts for now. Not knowing that they spook Mikoto. So that's a thing.

"I didn't," Yumi admits about Sailor Moon. "I thought she'd rather go be with her family..." Pause. "Oh, um. Not that--"

"I mean, hers is... here, and..."

She feels awkward having said it that way. "We do, huh? I don't mean to be, but it turns out that way."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto nods, to Yumi, with an affirmative noise. Quietly, she admits: "... he makes me feel special." How she can hold that positive regard in her heart when he is -- just the way Nori and Yumi heard...

She doesn't linger on the point, that juxtaposition between her love, her dread, her frustration. It just is.

"It's not easy," she says, instead, on Beryl. "If Mai hadn't found me... I might've started fighting before I met anyone. Sometimes I wonder if anyone would've understood me then. Or if... I'd just be an enemy." She shakes her head, braids whipping at the sides of her face. "It's different," she adds, quickly, "it's just..."

Maybe she can't dismiss Dark Fall so easily, these days. Not now she's looked behind her.

Mikoto makes an uncertain noise, when Nori invites her. "I don't really know her..." Perhaps that's why she looks surprised to see Nori ask Yumi if she invited her over, because, in fact -- Mikoto still hasn't figured out who Sailor Moon is.

Her flinch, when Yumi wonders if she'd rather be with her family, is downright audible. A little grunt through the lips, as her chin ducks down and her shoulders curl in. If she's still captured any hands, they might find themselves pulled a little, too.

She moves on, too quickly, to the idea of being solitary. "That's not true!" Mikoto protests, perhaps with a little too much volume. She looks a shade nervous, glancing to Yumi, before she settles down. "I mean... we've got lots of friends. If it feels like Nori's on your own, that's bad feelings. But everyone's still here. If we was solitary, Yumi wouldn't have taken me home... Nori wouldn't be here, neither." Her hands slip from those hands so they can move to her face, to cover her eyes, her cheeks, against a sniffle.

"Don't ignore the cake," she implores Nori, without context, and it may be telling that for all the terror she has relayed tonight, this is what makes her cry. "We're all together, Nori!"

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.


Nori considers that. She looks downwards, at her clothing. The clothing that was made under Tsuru's label, and perhaps by her hand. The things she wears by day are usually not the fanciest, or are occasionally things which were considered but not made in large quantities. But this...

To feel special...

And then Mikoto is pleading with her and Nori feels a faint sense as if she could swirl into grief and despair and the wonderful, wonderful thing about being here in Yumi's cozy room and that she's with friends, friends she has won through hard effort, is that it's only an impulse - a pang - a feeling of something that might happen, or almost happens, but then it doesn't.

"Oh, Mikoto," Nori says, leaning forwards and turning round in order to embrace Mikoto in full. It is a rather large gathering-up: Nori is noticeably taller and wider in build than Mikoto, even if she carries herself well. But this is a benefit, here.

"I am sorry, I don't always speak well... I only meant that we don't live with our families, and Sailor Moon *does* - you know? But you are in my life and in my heart too, and just as dear to me as anyone could be, alright? So please, don't worry... I just... ahhh," she continues, "I remember the cake. Don't worry about me. Alright?"

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Special... Yes. Yumi understands that, she thinks. Mikoto would need that. It is what it is.

"Maybes are maybes," Yumi says, shaking her head. "We can't know what might've been, only what actually happened. So it's different, but... it is what it is, OK?" And then--she doesn't know her, and there--that question.

Nori answers first. YUmi is second. "...Yeah," Yumi answers after a moment. "That's true. I'm just worried. I haven't seen Hana-chan much in a while, y'know? ...Or... Well. I feel a little disconnected sometimes from my older friends. But I've got you two, for sure. I..."

They're all together. "...Yeah. And..."

Yumi reaches out to make it a group hug, careful of cat and otter. Cat stays where she is... for now. For now.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Yumi is worried, Nori is stumbling over her words, and Mikoto...

Mikoto sinks into Nori, which may well mean Tama has to shift in her seat to avoid being soundly squished between girls; those lovely clothes Tsuru has made are balled under her hand, as she presses her face into her shoulder and clutches to her. A hand reaches out -- a touch flailish -- to grasp Yumi, too, when she senses her weight joining them. "Then, talk to her!" Is the first thing her mind latches onto, close to wailing, and it may not be immediately obvious she's talking about Yumi's friend.

Her tears are as runaway a freight train as her force; it's not Nori's fault, not really, not here. Mikoto was pushed so far, hurt so MUCH -- the last time she'd heard his voice, he bid her to hold on, to do whatever it took to reach their glorious future. His acceptance is a knife. It cut straight to the core of the people around her, laying claim, recontextualising.

And it hurts. It hurts, and she covers her wounds with her friends, hungrily, desperately, painfully. Drawing closer, not away. She can't forget the cake, either.

"I-I -- I left, but -- but it's 'cause I love everyone! I love Nori, and Yumi! And Tama and Batiste, too! I don't want you to feel like that! Not like that, not alone..!" Her voice reaches a crest, and gutters out, a cracked-voice choke of a breath.

There's one thought too upsetting to voice:

She left, and that means he's alone for Christmas.

"I'm sorry," she says, instead, gives voice to the apology, blinks teary eyes. She takes a deep breath in, deliberately. "I'm okay... it's okay."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Batiste straightens up, now. Tama can do what Tama wants, but Batiste is hugging at Mikoto's side, a warm presence. He has had to do this at times, himself.

Nori strokes over Mikoto's back once or twice as she lets out the tears, saying softly, "I will; I will. Oh, please... it's alright. It's quite alright. Shhh..." (Nori looks over Mikoto's shoulder, now, towards Yumi; her eyebrows raise slightly. Several pieces, which had just sort of sat on her head due to fatigue and seafood-related indolence, are being pieced together, to a worrying degree.)

"Sometimes we can be by ourselves; but it isn't the same as alone," Nori concludes, gently. "But it's very good to have other people around, even if we have our spaces. Please, please." She draws back a little, and runs a finger lightly over Mikoto's cheek to gather up the tears.

"Would you like us to get some dessert?" Nori offers. (Now she glances briefly at Batiste, who nods slightly once: good move.)

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Tama skitters out of the girlpile to keep her dignity intact, though she sits down nearby, watching the others. She does not move to also hug Mikoto, but... she's been sitting on her most of the night. It's fine. Her fluffy fur is only a little ruffled.

"...Yeah," Yumi says. "That's a good idea." She was going to today--but then, excuses aren't a thing for this moment. So instead she'll just have to try to do it tomorrow. It is obvious to Yumi, anyway. And...

"It's okay," Yumi says alone, and she recognizes a thought ithout thinking. She looks to Nori too and nods a little, as if to say she understands, but then looks at Mikoto again. "It's okay," she says. "You are. ...And I don't feel alone, not with you with me. You don't have to be sorry."


"I think I might have some cake still in the kitchen," Yumi offers. "Or we could go out and get something special too."

Tama flicks her tail, and hops up onto the back of the couch, taking up a position behind Mikoto's head (well, when she sits back, anyway.) "...It's good, to care about your friends' feelings," the cat opines, and this is all she says for now.

She is trying to be nice. "We love you, too, Mikoto," Yumi says.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Batiste is here, too, and Mikoto's hand moves to squeeze his back -- gently! -- at some point in that whole kerfluffle, too. She does not begrudge Tama her escape. It's the privilege of the old to not have to bend around the young.

Nori's soothing noises do much to help calm down that jackhammer-pounding of her heart, something which can be felt, this close. She feels a touch wretched to be so hungry for it, but in the end, it's still expressing care, isn't it..? She pulls back when Nori does, to look at her; her eyes widen, for a moment, with those fingers to her cheek, before her expression softens.

She almost apologises again, but for Yumi -- and Mikoto, for all her too-keen senses, does not have eyes in the back of her head, doesn't catch that silent exchange in the slightest. She hears her telling her she doesn't have to be sorry, though, and it relieves that urge to make excuses for herself, for all she carries. "Mm," she nods, gold meeting grey.

And, they love her. "Thanks," Mikoto says, and the words are simple but the gratitude is not. She looks to her side to find Batiste, behind her to find Tama, and repeats: "Thanks." She's quietly grateful that Tama is there, when she turns her head. Mikoto doesn't think Tama knows how much she's had to look behind her, since she left her family, but... then again, who can tell? Cats are very wise, particularly when they get to seventeen. Mikoto is not so wise at seventeen, but these days she has reason to hope she'll live much longer.

"I... I want cake," Mikoto ventures, slowly, as if testing the words. "But --" a sting of nervousness enters her voice, as she looks up to Nori, again, eyes wide as vulnerability. "Don't put chili in it, okay?! It really hurts..!"

... maybe it's a good sign that she can worry about that, now.